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1.  Collaborative Double Robust Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimation* 
Collaborative double robust targeted maximum likelihood estimators represent a fundamental further advance over standard targeted maximum likelihood estimators of a pathwise differentiable parameter of a data generating distribution in a semiparametric model, introduced in van der Laan, Rubin (2006). The targeted maximum likelihood approach involves fluctuating an initial estimate of a relevant factor (Q) of the density of the observed data, in order to make a bias/variance tradeoff targeted towards the parameter of interest. The fluctuation involves estimation of a nuisance parameter portion of the likelihood, g. TMLE has been shown to be consistent and asymptotically normally distributed (CAN) under regularity conditions, when either one of these two factors of the likelihood of the data is correctly specified, and it is semiparametric efficient if both are correctly specified.
In this article we provide a template for applying collaborative targeted maximum likelihood estimation (C-TMLE) to the estimation of pathwise differentiable parameters in semi-parametric models. The procedure creates a sequence of candidate targeted maximum likelihood estimators based on an initial estimate for Q coupled with a succession of increasingly non-parametric estimates for g. In a departure from current state of the art nuisance parameter estimation, C-TMLE estimates of g are constructed based on a loss function for the targeted maximum likelihood estimator of the relevant factor Q that uses the nuisance parameter to carry out the fluctuation, instead of a loss function for the nuisance parameter itself. Likelihood-based cross-validation is used to select the best estimator among all candidate TMLE estimators of Q0 in this sequence. A penalized-likelihood loss function for Q is suggested when the parameter of interest is borderline-identifiable.
We present theoretical results for “collaborative double robustness,” demonstrating that the collaborative targeted maximum likelihood estimator is CAN even when Q and g are both mis-specified, providing that g solves a specified score equation implied by the difference between the Q and the true Q0. This marks an improvement over the current definition of double robustness in the estimating equation literature.
We also establish an asymptotic linearity theorem for the C-DR-TMLE of the target parameter, showing that the C-DR-TMLE is more adaptive to the truth, and, as a consequence, can even be super efficient if the first stage density estimator does an excellent job itself with respect to the target parameter.
This research provides a template for targeted efficient and robust loss-based learning of a particular target feature of the probability distribution of the data within large (infinite dimensional) semi-parametric models, while still providing statistical inference in terms of confidence intervals and p-values. This research also breaks with a taboo (e.g., in the propensity score literature in the field of causal inference) on using the relevant part of likelihood to fine-tune the fitting of the nuisance parameter/censoring mechanism/treatment mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2898626  PMID: 20628637
asymptotic linearity; coarsening at random; causal effect; censored data; crossvalidation; collaborative double robust; double robust; efficient influence curve; estimating function; estimator selection; influence curve; G-computation; locally efficient; loss-function; marginal structural model; maximum likelihood estimation; model selection; pathwise derivative; semiparametric model; sieve; super efficiency; super-learning; targeted maximum likelihood estimation; targeted nuisance parameter estimator selection; variable importance
2.  A Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimator for Two-Stage Designs 
We consider two-stage sampling designs, including so-called nested case control studies, where one takes a random sample from a target population and completes measurements on each subject in the first stage. The second stage involves drawing a subsample from the original sample, collecting additional data on the subsample. This data structure can be viewed as a missing data structure on the full-data structure collected in the second-stage of the study. Methods for analyzing two-stage designs include parametric maximum likelihood estimation and estimating equation methodology. We propose an inverse probability of censoring weighted targeted maximum likelihood estimator (IPCW-TMLE) in two-stage sampling designs and present simulation studies featuring this estimator.
PMCID: PMC3083136  PMID: 21556285
two-stage designs; targeted maximum likelihood estimators; nested case control studies; double robust estimation
3.  The Relative Performance of Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimators 
There is an active debate in the literature on censored data about the relative performance of model based maximum likelihood estimators, IPCW-estimators, and a variety of double robust semiparametric efficient estimators. Kang and Schafer (2007) demonstrate the fragility of double robust and IPCW-estimators in a simulation study with positivity violations. They focus on a simple missing data problem with covariates where one desires to estimate the mean of an outcome that is subject to missingness. Responses by Robins, et al. (2007), Tsiatis and Davidian (2007), Tan (2007) and Ridgeway and McCaffrey (2007) further explore the challenges faced by double robust estimators and offer suggestions for improving their stability. In this article, we join the debate by presenting targeted maximum likelihood estimators (TMLEs). We demonstrate that TMLEs that guarantee that the parametric submodel employed by the TMLE procedure respects the global bounds on the continuous outcomes, are especially suitable for dealing with positivity violations because in addition to being double robust and semiparametric efficient, they are substitution estimators. We demonstrate the practical performance of TMLEs relative to other estimators in the simulations designed by Kang and Schafer (2007) and in modified simulations with even greater estimation challenges.
PMCID: PMC3173607  PMID: 21931570
censored data; collaborative double robustness; collaborative targeted maximum likelihood estimation; double robust; estimator selection; inverse probability of censoring weighting; locally efficient estimation; maximum likelihood estimation; semiparametric model; targeted maximum likelihood estimation; targeted minimum loss based estimation; targeted nuisance parameter estimator selection
4.  Estimation of a non-parametric variable importance measure of a continuous exposure 
We define a new measure of variable importance of an exposure on a continuous outcome, accounting for potential confounders. The exposure features a reference level x0 with positive mass and a continuum of other levels. For the purpose of estimating it, we fully develop the semi-parametric estimation methodology called targeted minimum loss estimation methodology (TMLE) [23, 22]. We cover the whole spectrum of its theoretical study (convergence of the iterative procedure which is at the core of the TMLE methodology; consistency and asymptotic normality of the estimator), practical implementation, simulation study and application to a genomic example that originally motivated this article. In the latter, the exposure X and response Y are, respectively, the DNA copy number and expression level of a given gene in a cancer cell. Here, the reference level is x0 = 2, that is the expected DNA copy number in a normal cell. The confounder is a measure of the methylation of the gene. The fact that there is no clear biological indication that X and Y can be interpreted as an exposure and a response, respectively, is not problematic.
PMCID: PMC3546832  PMID: 23336014
Variable importance measure; non-parametric estimation; targeted minimum loss estimation; robustness; asymptotics
5.  Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Effect Modification Parameters in Survival Analysis 
The Cox proportional hazards model or its discrete time analogue, the logistic failure time model, posit highly restrictive parametric models and attempt to estimate parameters which are specific to the model proposed. These methods are typically implemented when assessing effect modification in survival analyses despite their flaws. The targeted maximum likelihood estimation (TMLE) methodology is more robust than the methods typically implemented and allows practitioners to estimate parameters that directly answer the question of interest. TMLE will be used in this paper to estimate two newly proposed parameters of interest that quantify effect modification in the time to event setting. These methods are then applied to the Tshepo study to assess if either gender or baseline CD4 level modify the effect of two cART therapies of interest, efavirenz (EFV) and nevirapine (NVP), on the progression of HIV. The results show that women tend to have more favorable outcomes using EFV while males tend to have more favorable outcomes with NVP. Furthermore, EFV tends to be favorable compared to NVP for individuals at high CD4 levels.
PMCID: PMC3083138  PMID: 21556287
causal effect; semi-parametric; censored longitudinal data; double robust; efficient influence curve; influence curve; G-computation; Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimation; Cox-proportional hazards; survival analysis
6.  Dimension reduction with gene expression data using targeted variable importance measurement 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:312.
When a large number of candidate variables are present, a dimension reduction procedure is usually conducted to reduce the variable space before the subsequent analysis is carried out. The goal of dimension reduction is to find a list of candidate genes with a more operable length ideally including all the relevant genes. Leaving many uninformative genes in the analysis can lead to biased estimates and reduced power. Therefore, dimension reduction is often considered a necessary predecessor of the analysis because it can not only reduce the cost of handling numerous variables, but also has the potential to improve the performance of the downstream analysis algorithms.
We propose a TMLE-VIM dimension reduction procedure based on the variable importance measurement (VIM) in the frame work of targeted maximum likelihood estimation (TMLE). TMLE is an extension of maximum likelihood estimation targeting the parameter of interest. TMLE-VIM is a two-stage procedure. The first stage resorts to a machine learning algorithm, and the second step improves the first stage estimation with respect to the parameter of interest.
We demonstrate with simulations and data analyses that our approach not only enjoys the prediction power of machine learning algorithms, but also accounts for the correlation structures among variables and therefore produces better variable rankings. When utilized in dimension reduction, TMLE-VIM can help to obtain the shortest possible list with the most truly associated variables.
PMCID: PMC3166941  PMID: 21849016
7.  Covariate adjustment in randomized trials with binary outcomes: Targeted maximum likelihood estimation 
Statistics in medicine  2009;28(1):39-64.
Covariate adjustment using linear models for continuous outcomes in randomized trials has been shown to increase efficiency and power over the unadjusted method in estimating the marginal effect of treatment. However, for binary outcomes, investigators generally rely on the unadjusted estimate as the literature indicates that covariate-adjusted estimates based on the logistic regression models are less efficient. The crucial step that has been missing when adjusting for covariates is that one must integrate/average the adjusted estimate over those covariates in order to obtain the marginal effect. We apply the method of targeted maximum likelihood estimation (tMLE) to obtain estimators for the marginal effect using covariate adjustment for binary outcomes. We show that the covariate adjustment in randomized trials using the logistic regression models can be mapped, by averaging over the covariate(s), to obtain a fully robust and efficient estimator of the marginal effect, which equals a targeted maximum likelihood estimator. This tMLE is obtained by simply adding a clever covariate to a fixed initial regression. We present simulation studies that demonstrate that this tMLE increases efficiency and power over the unadjusted method, particularly for smaller sample sizes, even when the regression model is mis-specified.
PMCID: PMC2857590  PMID: 18985634
clinical trails; efficiency; covariate adjustment; variable selection
8.  Effect Modification by Sex and Baseline CD4+ Cell Count Among Adults Receiving Combination Antiretroviral Therapy in Botswana: Results from a Clinical Trial 
The Tshepo study was the first clinical trial to evaluate outcomes of adults receiving nevirapine (NVP)-based versus efavirenz (EFV)-based combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in Botswana. This was a 3 year study (n=650) comparing the efficacy and tolerability of various first-line cART regimens, stratified by baseline CD4+: <200 (low) vs. 201-350 (high). Using targeted maximum likelihood estimation (TMLE), we retrospectively evaluated the causal effect of assigned NNRTI on time to virologic failure or death [intent-to-treat (ITT)] and time to minimum of virologic failure, death, or treatment modifying toxicity [time to loss of virological response (TLOVR)] by sex and baseline CD4+. Sex did significantly modify the effect of EFV versus NVP for both the ITT and TLOVR outcomes with risk differences in the probability of survival of males versus the females of approximately 6% (p=0.015) and 12% (p=0.001), respectively. Baseline CD4+ also modified the effect of EFV versus NVP for the TLOVR outcome, with a mean difference in survival probability of approximately 12% (p=0.023) in the high versus low CD4+ cell count group. TMLE appears to be an efficient technique that allows for the clinically meaningful delineation and interpretation of the causal effect of NNRTI treatment and effect modification by sex and baseline CD4+ cell count strata in this study. EFV-treated women and NVP-treated men had more favorable cART outcomes. In addition, adults initiating EFV-based cART at higher baseline CD4+ cell count values had more favorable outcomes compared to those initiating NVP-based cART.
PMCID: PMC3423643  PMID: 22309114
9.  Sensitivity analysis for causal inference using inverse probability weighting 
Evaluation of impact of potential uncontrolled confounding is an important component for causal inference based on observational studies. In this article, we introduce a general framework of sensitivity analysis that is based on inverse probability weighting. We propose a general methodology that allows both non-parametric and parametric analyses, which are driven by two parameters that govern the magnitude of the variation of the multiplicative errors of the propensity score and their correlations with the potential outcomes. We also introduce a specific parametric model that offers a mechanistic view on how the uncontrolled confounding may bias the inference through these parameters. Our method can be readily applied to both binary and continuous outcomes and depends on the covariates only through the propensity score that can be estimated by any parametric or non-parametric method. We illustrate our method with two medical data sets.
PMCID: PMC3777387  PMID: 21770046
Causal inference; Inverse probability weighting; Propensity score; Sensitivity analysis; Uncontrolled confounding
10.  Usual Physical Activity and Hip Fracture in Older Men: An Application of Semiparametric Methods to Observational Data 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;173(5):578-586.
Few studies have examined the relation between usual physical activity level and rate of hip fracture in older men or applied semiparametric methods from the causal inference literature that estimate associations without assuming a particular parametric model. Using the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly, the authors measured usual physical activity level at baseline (2000–2002) in 5,682 US men ≥65 years of age who were enrolled in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study. Physical activity levels were classified as low (bottom quartile of Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly score), moderate (middle quartiles), or high (top quartile). Hip fractures were confirmed by central review. Marginal associations between physical activity and hip fracture were estimated with 3 estimation methods: inverse probability-of-treatment weighting, G-computation, and doubly robust targeted maximum likelihood estimation. During 6.5 years of follow-up, 95 men (1.7%) experienced a hip fracture. The unadjusted risk of hip fracture was lower in men with a high physical activity level versus those with a low physical activity level (relative risk = 0.51, 95% confidence interval: 0.28, 0.92). In semiparametric analyses that controlled confounding, hip fracture risk was not lower with moderate (e.g., targeted maximum likelihood estimation relative risk = 0.92, 95% confidence interval: 0.62, 1.44) or high (e.g., targeted maximum likelihood estimation relative risk = 0.88, 95% confidence interval: 0.53, 2.03) physical activity relative to low. This study does not support a protective effect of usual physical activity on hip fracture in older men.
PMCID: PMC3105440  PMID: 21303805
aged; confounding factors (epidemiology); exercise; hip fractures; men; motor activity; prospective studies
11.  Population intervention models in causal inference 
Biometrika  2008;95(1):35-47.
We propose a new causal parameter, which is a natural extension of existing approaches to causal inference such as marginal structural models. Modelling approaches are proposed for the difference between a treatment-specific counterfactual population distribution and the actual population distribution of an outcome in the target population of interest. Relevant parameters describe the effect of a hypothetical intervention on such a population and therefore we refer to these models as population intervention models. We focus on intervention models estimating the effect of an intervention in terms of a difference and ratio of means, called risk difference and relative risk if the outcome is binary. We provide a class of inverse-probability-of-treatment-weighted and doubly-robust estimators of the causal parameters in these models. The finite-sample performance of these new estimators is explored in a simulation study.
PMCID: PMC2464276  PMID: 18629347
Attributable risk; Causal inference; Confounding; Counterfactual; Doubly-robust estimation; G-computation estimation; Inverse-probability-of-treatment-weighted estimation
When data are missing, analyzing records that are completely observed may cause bias or inefficiency. Existing approaches in handling missing data include likelihood, imputation and inverse probability weighting. In this paper, we propose three estimators inspired by deleting some completely observed data in the regression setting. First, we generate artificial observation indicators that are independent of outcome given the observed data and draw inferences conditioning on the artificial observation indicators. Second, we propose a closely related weighting method. The proposed weighting method has more stable weights than those of the inverse probability weighting method (Zhao and Lipsitz, 1992). Third, we improve the efficiency of the proposed weighting estimator by subtracting the projection of the estimating function onto the nuisance tangent space. When data are missing completely at random, we show that the proposed estimators have asymptotic variances smaller than or equal to the variance of the estimator obtained from using completely observed records only. Asymptotic relative efficiency computation and simulation studies indicate that the proposed weighting estimators are more efficient than the inverse probability weighting estimators under wide range of practical situations especially when when the missingness proportion is large.
PMCID: PMC2674251  PMID: 20160863
13.  Structural Nested Cumulative Failure Time Models to Estimate the Effects of Interventions 
Journal of the American Statistical Association  2012;107(499):10.1080/01621459.2012.682532.
In the presence of time-varying confounders affected by prior treatment, standard statistical methods for failure time analysis may be biased. Methods that correctly adjust for this type of covariate include the parametric g-formula, inverse probability weighted estimation of marginal structural Cox proportional hazards models, and g-estimation of structural nested accelerated failure time models. In this article, we propose a novel method to estimate the causal effect of a time-dependent treatment on failure in the presence of informative right-censoring and time-dependent confounders that may be affected by past treatment: g-estimation of structural nested cumulative failure time models (SNCFTMs). An SNCFTM considers the conditional effect of a final treatment at time m on the outcome at each later time k by modeling the ratio of two counterfactual cumulative risks at time k under treatment regimes that differ only at time m. Inverse probability weights are used to adjust for informative censoring. We also present a procedure that, under certain “no-interaction” conditions, uses the g-estimates of the model parameters to calculate unconditional cumulative risks under nondynamic (static) treatment regimes. The procedure is illustrated with an example using data from a longitudinal cohort study, in which the “treatments” are healthy behaviors and the outcome is coronary heart disease.
PMCID: PMC3860902  PMID: 24347749
Causal inference; Coronary heart disease; Epidemiology; G-estimation; Inverse probability weighting
14.  Robust Model-Free Multiclass Probability Estimation 
Classical statistical approaches for multiclass probability estimation are typically based on regression techniques such as multiple logistic regression, or density estimation approaches such as linear discriminant analysis (LDA) and quadratic discriminant analysis (QDA). These methods often make certain assumptions on the form of probability functions or on the underlying distributions of subclasses. In this article, we develop a model-free procedure to estimate multiclass probabilities based on large-margin classifiers. In particular, the new estimation scheme is employed by solving a series of weighted large-margin classifiers and then systematically extracting the probability information from these multiple classification rules. A main advantage of the proposed probability estimation technique is that it does not impose any strong parametric assumption on the underlying distribution and can be applied for a wide range of large-margin classification methods. A general computational algorithm is developed for class probability estimation. Furthermore, we establish asymptotic consistency of the probability estimates. Both simulated and real data examples are presented to illustrate competitive performance of the new approach and compare it with several other existing methods.
PMCID: PMC2990887  PMID: 21113386
Fisher consistency; Hard classification; Multicategory classification; Probability estimation; Soft classification; SVM
15.  A Partially Linear Regression Model for Data from an Outcome-Dependent Sampling Design 
The outcome dependent sampling scheme has been gaining attention in both the statistical literature and applied fields. Epidemiological and environmental researchers have been using it to select the observations for more powerful and cost-effective studies. Motivated by a study of the effect of in utero exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls on children’s IQ at age 7, in which the effect of an important confounding variable is nonlinear, we consider a semi-parametric regression model for data from an outcome-dependent sampling scheme where the relationship between the response and covariates is only partially parameterized. We propose a penalized spline maximum likelihood estimation (PSMLE) for inference on both the parametric and the nonparametric components and develop their asymptotic properties. Through simulation studies and an analysis of the IQ study, we compare the proposed estimator with several competing estimators. Practical considerations of implementing those estimators are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3181132  PMID: 21966030
Outcome dependent sampling; Estimated likelihood; Semiparametric method; Penalized spline
16.  Semiparametric inference on the penetrances of rare genetic mutations based on a case-family design 
A formal semiparametric statistical inference framework is proposed for the evaluation of the age-dependent penetrance of a rare genetic mutation, using family data generated under a case-family design, where phenotype and genotype information are collected from first-degree relatives of case probands carrying the targeted mutation. The proposed approach allows for unobserved risk factors that are correlated among family members. Some rigorous large sample properties are established, which show that the proposed estimators were asymptotically semi-parametric efficient. A simulation study is conducted to evaluate the performance of the new approach, which shows the robustness of the proposed semiparamteric approach and its advantage over the corresponding parametric approach. As an illustration, the proposed approach is applied to estimating the age-dependent cancer risk among carriers of the MSH2 or MLH1 mutation.
PMCID: PMC3544474  PMID: 23329866
Case-family design; kin-cohort design; penetrance; proportional hazards model
17.  Quantile Regression for Competing Risks Data with Missing Cause of Failure 
Statistica Sinica  2012;22(2):703-728.
This paper considers generalized linear quantile regression for competing risks data when the failure type may be missing. Two estimation procedures for the regression co-efficients, including an inverse probability weighted complete-case estimator and an augmented inverse probability weighted estimator, are discussed under the assumption that the failure type is missing at random. The proposed estimation procedures utilize supplemental auxiliary variables for predicting the missing failure type and for informing its distribution. The asymptotic properties of the two estimators are derived and their asymptotic efficiencies are compared. We show that the augmented estimator is more efficient and possesses a double robustness property against misspecification of either the model for missingness or for the failure type. The asymptotic covariances are estimated using the local functional linearity of the estimating functions. The finite sample performance of the proposed estimation procedures are evaluated through a simulation study. The methods are applied to analyze the ‘Mashi’ trial data for investigating the effect of formula-versus breast-feeding plus extended infant zidovudine prophylaxis on HIV-related death of infants born to HIV-infected mothers in Botswana.
PMCID: PMC3742132  PMID: 23950622
Augmented inverse probability weighted; Auxiliary variables; Competing risks; Double robustness; Efficient estimator; Estimating equation; Inverse probability weighted; Local functional linearity; Logistic regression; Mashi trial; Missing at random; Quantile regression
18.  On L∞ convergence of Neumann series approximation in missing data problems 
Statistics & probability letters  2010;80(9-10):864-873.
The inverse of the nonparametric information operator is key to finding doubly robust estimators and the semiparametric efficient estimator in missing data problems. It is known that no closed-form expression for the inverse of the nonparametric information operator exists when missing data form nonmonotone patterns. Neumann series is usually applied to approximate the inverse. However, Neumann series approximation is only known to converge in L2 norm, which is not sufficient for establishing statistical properties of the estimators yielded from the approximation. In this article, we show that L∞ convergence of the Neumann series approximations to the inverse of the non-parametric information operator and to the efficient scores in missing data problems can be obtained under very simple conditions. This paves the way to the study of the asymptotic properties of the doubly robust estimators and the locally semiparametric efficient estimator in those difficult situations.
PMCID: PMC2850222  PMID: 20383317
Auxiliary information; Induction; Rate of convergence; Weighted estimating equation
19.  A Marginal Structural Modeling Approach to Assess the Cumulative Effect of Drug Treatment on the Later Drug Use Abstinence 
Journal of drug issues  2010;40(1):221-240.
In this article, we applied a marginal structural model (MSM) to estimate the effect on later drug use of drug treatments occurring over 10 years following first use of the primary drug. The study was based on the longitudinal data that were collected in three projects among 421 subjects and covered 15 years since first use of their primary drug. The cumulative treatment effect was estimated by the inverse-probability of treatment weighted estimators of MSM as well as the traditional regression analysis. Contrary to the traditional regression analysis, results of the MSM showed that the cumulative treatment occurring over the 10 years significantly increased the likelihood of drug use abstinence in the subsequent 5-year period. From both the statistical and empirical point of view, MSM is a better approach to assessing cumulative treatment effects, considering its advantage of controlling for self-selection bias over time.
PMCID: PMC3090640  PMID: 21566677
Cumulative treatment effect; causal inference; regression; marginal structural model
20.  Repeated Measures Semiparametric Regression Using Targeted Maximum Likelihood Methodology with Application to Transcription Factor Activity Discovery 
In longitudinal and repeated measures data analysis, often the goal is to determine the effect of a treatment or aspect on a particular outcome (e.g., disease progression). We consider a semiparametric repeated measures regression model, where the parametric component models effect of the variable of interest and any modification by other covariates. The expectation of this parametric component over the other covariates is a measure of variable importance. Here, we present a targeted maximum likelihood estimator of the finite dimensional regression parameter, which is easily estimated using standard software for generalized estimating equations.
The targeted maximum likelihood method provides double robust and locally efficient estimates of the variable importance parameters and inference based on the influence curve. We demonstrate these properties through simulation under correct and incorrect model specification, and apply our method in practice to estimating the activity of transcription factor (TF) over cell cycle in yeast. We specifically target the importance of SWI4, SWI6, MBP1, MCM1, ACE2, FKH2, NDD1, and SWI5.
The semiparametric model allows us to determine the importance of a TF at specific time points by specifying time indicators as potential effect modifiers of the TF. Our results are promising, showing significant importance trends during the expected time periods. This methodology can also be used as a variable importance analysis tool to assess the effect of a large number of variables such as gene expressions or single nucleotide polymorphisms.
PMCID: PMC3122882  PMID: 21291412
targeted maximum likelihood; semiparametric; repeated measures; longitudinal; transcription factors
21.  Nonparametric estimation for censored mixture data with application to the Cooperative Huntington’s Observational Research Trial 
This work presents methods for estimating genotype-specific distributions from genetic epidemiology studies where the event times are subject to right censoring, the genotypes are not directly observed, and the data arise from a mixture of scientifically meaningful subpopulations. Examples of such studies include kin-cohort studies and quantitative trait locus (QTL) studies. Current methods for analyzing censored mixture data include two types of nonparametric maximum likelihood estimators (NPMLEs) which do not make parametric assumptions on the genotype-specific density functions. Although both NPMLEs are commonly used, we show that one is inefficient and the other inconsistent. To overcome these deficiencies, we propose three classes of consistent nonparametric estimators which do not assume parametric density models and are easy to implement. They are based on the inverse probability weighting (IPW), augmented IPW (AIPW), and nonparametric imputation (IMP). The AIPW achieves the efficiency bound without additional modeling assumptions. Extensive simulation experiments demonstrate satisfactory performance of these estimators even when the data are heavily censored. We apply these estimators to the Cooperative Huntington’s Observational Research Trial (COHORT), and provide age-specific estimates of the effect of mutation in the Huntington gene on mortality using a sample of family members. The close approximation of the estimated non-carrier survival rates to that of the U.S. population indicates small ascertainment bias in the COHORT family sample. Our analyses underscore an elevated risk of death in Huntington gene mutation carriers compared to non-carriers for a wide age range, and suggest that the mutation equally affects survival rates in both genders. The estimated survival rates are useful in genetic counseling for providing guidelines on interpreting the risk of death associated with a positive genetic testing, and in facilitating future subjects at risk to make informed decisions on whether to undergo genetic mutation testings.
PMCID: PMC3905630  PMID: 24489419
Censored data; Finite mixture model; Huntington’s disease; Kin-cohort design; Quantitative trait locus
Annals of statistics  2013;41(1):269-295.
We develop asymptotic theory for weighted likelihood estimators (WLE) under two-phase stratified sampling without replacement. We also consider several variants of WLEs involving estimated weights and calibration. A set of empirical process tools are developed including a Glivenko–Cantelli theorem, a theorem for rates of convergence of M-estimators, and a Donsker theorem for the inverse probability weighted empirical processes under two-phase sampling and sampling without replacement at the second phase. Using these general results, we derive asymptotic distributions of the WLE of a finite-dimensional parameter in a general semiparametric model where an estimator of a nuisance parameter is estimable either at regular or nonregular rates. We illustrate these results and methods in the Cox model with right censoring and interval censoring. We compare the methods via their asymptotic variances under both sampling without replacement and the more usual (and easier to analyze) assumption of Bernoulli sampling at the second phase.
PMCID: PMC3929280  PMID: 24563559
Calibration; estimated weights; weighted likelihood; semiparametric model; regular; nonregular
23.  Estimating parsimonious models of longitudinal causal effects using regressions on propensity scores 
Statistics in medicine  2013;32(22):3829-3837.
Parsimony is important for the interpretation of causal effect estimates of longitudinal treatments on subsequent outcomes. One method for parsimonious estimates fits marginal structural models by using inverse propensity scores as weights. This method leads to generally large variability that is uncommon in more likelihood-based approaches. A more recent method fits these models by using simulations from a fitted g-computation, but requires the modeling of high-dimensional longitudinal relations that are highly susceptible to misspecification. We propose a new method that, first, uses longitudinal propensity scores as regressors to reduce the dimension of the problem and then uses the approximate likelihood for the first estimates to fit parsimonious models. We demonstrate the methods by estimating the effect of anticoagulant therapy on survival for cancer and non-cancer patients who have inferior vena cava filters.
PMCID: PMC3910397  PMID: 23533091
causal inference; propensity scores; causal models; survival analysis
24.  Pathway-based drug repositioning using causal inference 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14(Suppl 16):S3.
Recent in vivo studies showed new hopes of drug repositioning through causality inference from drugs to disease. Inspired by their success, here we present an in silico method for building a causal network (CauseNet) between drugs and diseases, in an attempt to systematically identify new therapeutic uses of existing drugs.
Unlike the traditional 'one drug-one target-one disease' causal model, we simultaneously consider all possible causal chains connecting drugs to diseases via target- and gene-involved pathways based on rich information in several expert-curated knowledge-bases. With statistical learning, our method estimates transition likelihood of each causal chain in the network based on known drug-disease treatment associations (e.g. bexarotene treats skin cancer).
To demonstrate its validity, our method showed high performance (AUC = 0.859) in cross validation. Moreover, our top scored prediction results are highly enriched in literature and clinical trials. As a showcase of its utility, we show several drugs for potential re-use in Crohn's Disease.
We successfully developed a computational method for discovering new uses of existing drugs based on casual inference in a layered drug-target-pathway-gene- disease network. The results showed that our proposed method enables hypothesis generation from public accessible biological data for drug repositioning.
PMCID: PMC3853312  PMID: 24564553
25.  Variance Estimation in Censored Quantile Regression via Induced Smoothing 
Statistical inference in censored quantile regression is challenging, partly due to the unsmoothness of the quantile score function. A new procedure is developed to estimate the variance of Bang and Tsiatis’s inverse-censoring-probability weighted estimator for censored quantile regression by employing the idea of induced smoothing. The proposed variance estimator is shown to be asymptotically consistent. In addition, numerical study suggests that the proposed procedure performs well in finite samples, and it is computationally more efficient than the commonly used bootstrap method.
PMCID: PMC3338150  PMID: 22547899
censored quantile regression; smoothing; survival analysis; variance estimation

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